Last year on June 8, Atari CEO Fred Chesnais announced the development of a new gaming console based on revolutionary PC technology, the Atari VCS. For a lot of gamers, the Atari name still carries a lot of importance, given the company’s role in creating the home console market back in 1972, but its latest piece of new hardware, 1993’s Jaguar, was a massive flop. Since the Jaguar, Atari has gone through a rough couple of decades, with Atari U.S. filing for bankruptcy in 2013. However, just recently, Atari has re-opened its doors to the public to announce that the Atari VCS will be available to pre-order starting on May 30, 2018 and will be sold at a price of around $250-$300.
So, what can we expect from the Atari VCS? Running a version of Linux, the VCS is essentially a PC with a “console-like interface” that is supposed to be aimed at being accessible to a wider, non-gaming audience. Atari says to expect 4k HDR and 60 fps. It will also come with some classic Atari arcade games and have its own store to buy games that aren’t just retro, but modern titles as well. And for the more hardcore audience out there, there will be a sandbox environment built in that will allow you utilize the Linux operating system, making it a more traditional PC if you know how to do so.
What are some concerns of the VCS? Although it seems like a console with its “console-like interface,” the truth is that the VCS is still essentially a Linux-based living room PC, similar to Valve’s Steam Machines. That said, the VCS is targeting a significantly lower price point than most modern PCs, will use the Radeon R7 as the GPU, and only has 4 GBs of RAM, meaning it will likely also be substantially less powerful than typical PCs. These factors make it difficult to figure out what the Atari VCS is actually for. It’s not trying to compete with consoles, but has features and a price point similar to them. It invites PC gamers to control and customize its operating system, despite likely having an underpowered hardware configuration.
I’m left skeptical because I genuinely don’t know who the Atari VCS is being made for. There are stronger living room PC options, better consoles, and cheaper ways to get access to entertainment apps on your TV. Atari seems to be leaning into the nostalgia-factor, but with the specs of the VCS, especially the GPU and the amount of RAM, people are very skeptical if it can live up to what it has promised. However with more than 3 million dollars of funding, almost 3000% percent of its initial requested funding, we can only hope that the VCS can live up to the glory of its predecessors.
Daniel Kim, Grade 11
Oakwood High School